As a parent, there is nothing more terrifying than having a sick child. A common cold can bring out the protective instincts, making you want to bundle your little one in a tight cocoon, forcing him or her to ingest soup and Popsicles. A more serious illness can keep you awake for days on end, watching and fretting. A disease? Heartbreaking and unthinkable.
And, without insurance, likely a potential bankruptcy as well.
With Obamacare in place, children are staying on their parent’s insurance longer, they are seeing caps in yearly out of pocket expenses, and they cannot be turned down for coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Even better, thanks to the Affordable Care Act more children are eligible for state based CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) coverage, a sort of Medicaid explicitly for those under age 18.
Even with the red state governor’s unwillingness to allow straight Medicaid expansion to occur in a number of states in the country, CHIP programs have been covering more children than ever, bringing uninsured children down to the lowest level in decades. This isn’t just a victory for overall children’s health (although it’s that, too), but a benefit to our economic security and welfare as well. After all, healthy children can spend more time in school, allowing them to learn more which translates into economic success. Plus, children who are at school more also translates to parents who are able to take less unpaid leave, allowing them to earn more to support their families and stimulate the economy.
With the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will be increasing their payment of state CHIP programs by 23 percent — an amount that for many states would cover the entirety of their programs. These programs have been proven repeatedly to be a massive benefit to the states, with many saying that even without the federal matching funds, it’s completely worth it. In states like Arkansas, CHIP programs are seen to be leading to a dramatic decrease in child mortality.
So many positive results and great benefits should make renewal of CHIP funding a no-brainer. Yet we are drawing closer to the point where a new budget must be agreed on for fiscal year 2015, and funding may be up for a fight. The issue, like always, is a GOP terrified of continuing any program that might be considered successful as it somehow might be seen as helping Democrats in upcoming elections.
Voting against CHIP, however, can only hurt Republicans. In polling, 83 percent of Americans support CHIP funding, an astounding majority that is far greater than the number of people who support Congress. Even when people have disapproved of the Affordable Care Act, that disapproval never spilled over onto CHIP.
“[A] Lake Research Partners survey found that, despite the partisanship that had developed around the Affordable Care Act (ACA), voters in both political parties strongly supported extending CHIP by a wide 83-13 percent margin,” reports Huffington Post. “At a time when one-quarter of the American people seem to be so disenchanted and cynical that they oppose everything, it is surprising that CHIP has the support of even half of the ‘haters’ and near unanimous support from everyone else.”
Currently, there is a bill waiting for a Senate vote that will fund the program for five years. That’s five years of continuing protection for children under the age of 18, ensuring that they get the preventative care, the well visits and the treatment for serious illnesses that every person deserves but not every person can afford out of pocket without insurance to support them. Sadly, in today’s Senate, it takes not just a majority, but a super majority of 60 votes just to get a bill shaken loose in order to hold an actual vote in favor or opposition to it.
The GOP may be tempted to stand against CHIP renewal, assuming it will play to the same part of their base that allegedly hates Obamacare. If they do, however, they are likely to find they chose wrong. While there are still holdouts refusing to acknowledge the benefits of the ACA and affordable, quality insurance for everyone, even those holdouts aren’t so full of hatred for all things Obama that they are rooting for health care to be stripped from small children.
In an election year, there is nothing more dangerous for either party than to be seen as voting against kids. Hopefully, that is a lesson the GOP will take to heart when it comes time to reauthorize CHIP funding exactly as it currently is.
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